When my oldest son, now eight, was a baby I distinctly remember trying to get him to eat my pureed cauliflower from a little colorful baby spoon. It did not go well and I thought I was doomed to a life of vegetable-free children. Looking back I can see why that ground up over-boiled cauliflower and water wasn’t exactly a hit. I’m not sure I was even willing to taste it.
Fast forward seven years and three children later; he loves vegetables. Most of our three oldest children – 8, 6, and 2.5 – like most vegetables. Each of them has one or two they’re a bit finicky about, but overall I am encouraged.
There were a few game-changing tactics between that tasteless cauliflower I thought I’d share with you today. Oh, and a recipe for my boys’ favorite way to eat a simple cabbage slaw.
Flavor the Vegetables Like You’re Serving an Adult
Every single jar of baby food I have ever looked at boasts about containing no fat and no salt. Most adults wouldn’t eat broccoli or sweet potatoes that way, so why do we expect babies and toddlers to? Fat is good for you, and especially needful for growing children. So, from a very early age I sprinkle on a little good quality salt and add coconut oil or grass-fed butter to all of the vegetables.
Let Them Eat What You Eat
I’ve never understood how parents can make kid food and then adult food. I can’t imagine adding more meals and dishes to the mix! I’ve always just served them whatever we’re eating – meat, veggies, rice, potatoes, etc. This has also helped them acquire a taste for interesting and different flavors like curries and bitter greens and sauerkraut and organ meats. Okay, none of us love organ meats, but we’ll all usually eat a little bit of them.
Vegetables are the perfect vehicle for nutrient-dense fats. Grass-fed butter on that broccoli or sweet potato. Stir fry in plenty of coconut oil. This is what makes vegetables taste good, along with other flavors like salt, garlic, and herbs. This is what makes them part of a tasty meal rather than that thing you have to eat in order to get to dessert. I’m telling you, one of our boys goes bonkers for steamed broccoli with butter or broccoli with dip. I’m convinced fat is the reason why.
Since my older boys now happily eat most vegetables I put in front of them, it really stands out when they complain. It’s no longer whining or a complete dinner coup, it is now a personal preference or something they struggle with. The texture of asparagus was a struggle for one of them, cooked cabbage gave our six-year-old trouble. So, instead of forcing them to eat it or nixing that vegetable all together, I found other ways to make them. I only serve them asparagus that I know isn’t stringy, and I serve up plenty of cabbage in the form of homemade sauerkraut and raw vegetable slaw like this one.
Sweet & Spicy Cabbage Slaw
- 1/2 large head green cabbage
- 1 large carrot grated or thinly diced
- 1/2 small onion sliced thinly
- 1.5 teaspoons raw honey
- 2 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne (less if your kids don’t like spicy food)
- salt to taste
- Remove the core from your cabbage half and slice in half again. Slice thinly, or grate in a food processor, as for slaw. Add to a medium salad bowl.
- Add the carrot, onion, honey, apple cider vinegar, cayenne, and a sprinkle of salt. Mix thoroughly with clean hands, rubbing the salt into the veggies as you go. Taste and adjust salt as needed.
- Serve along with rice and meat, in tacos, or as a simple side salad to any main dish.